At last, Atlas can lay down his burden.
On Sunday, Hugh Jackman (search) gives his final performance in "The Boy From Oz," (search) that combination floor show/VH-1 "Behind the Music" bio in which Jackman plays the late gay songwriter Peter Allen (search) (with one swish, Hugh's the boy next door).
Jackman has carried the show on his back for a year now, defying the critics who mauled it and the pundits (I was one) who predicted it wouldn't last the season.
He's also managed to put the $8.25 million show in the black, pushing it over the line with the help of premium-priced tickets, which have been selling briskly since spring, and $350 orchestra seats for the final, sold-out performance.
In its final week, "The Boy From Oz" is on track to gross $1.4 million, just $200,000 shy of the record set by Matthew Broderick (search) and Nathan Lane (search) during the first week of their return engagement in "The Producers."
Yesterday, Albert Poland, the show's general manager, told The New York Post: "The show has recouped, and the final distribution to investors will occur shortly after the closing."
Jackman's feat has been extraordinary — super-human, really — and deserves to be studied as an example of what true star power can do for a Broadway show.
Jackman's only rivals on the very short list of male theater stars are Lane and Broderick. But unlike that duo, who, in "The Producers," were working with first-rate material, Jackman had to make do with garbage.
You'd be hard-pressed to find a show as tacky and ineptly put together as "The Boy From Oz," although Frank Wildhorn's "Dracula" is a worthy successor.
Yet Jackman, through a combination of energy, charisma and salesmanship, managed to transcend its awfulness and turn it into what was, for all intents and purposes, a one-man show with undeniable audience appeal.
The audience, to be sure, was not diverse.
Women, specifically middle-aged women from the suburbs, fell hard for Jackman. At times, the atmosphere in the Imperial Theatre resembled a bachelorette party for someone about to get married for the second time.
Luckily for investors in "The Boy From Oz," the bulk of Broadway tickets are bought by middle-aged suburban women, and "Oz" — with Jackman acting as a middle-aged babe magnet — became their destination of choice.
Because the bad reviews initially depressed ticket sales — and because Jackman was only signed up for one year — the profit margin on "The Boy From Oz" was always going to be razor-thin (the final profit, says a source, could be less than $100,000).
Had Jackman missed just a handful of performances, the show would never have recouped.
And here, he was exemplary: He did not miss a single performance.
For this, he deserves much praise.
If they have a case of the sniffles or a slight tickle in their throats, Broadway stars today can call up any number of showbiz doctors and have themselves put on "vocal rest."
This practice is out of control (Donna Murphy, 60 absences and counting!), and is being aided and abetted by producers, who, fearing negative publicity that might depress ticket sales, are reluctant to make an issue of it.
Some turn a blind eye to it because they don't want to fight with their stars.
Others, the cynical ones, figure most people have traveled some distance to see the show and would rather suffer an understudy than have to chase after refunds or exchanges.
Jackman has raised the bar on attendance for all Broadway stars.
Let's hope they follow his example.
The Broadway community is turning out for Jackman's performance on Sunday. He is well-liked in the industry, having charmed the powerbrokers (and their spouses) and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for theater charities.
Every producer sitting in that house on Sunday is going to be making a list of projects for "Hugh," which is what everybody in theater calls him whether they know him or not.
Two that spring to mind are "Pal Joey," a revival of which is in the works, and "Company," in which "Hugh" would be perfect as the handsome bachelor, Bobby.
But producers will have to bide their time. Jackman will come back to Broadway but not, at the very least, for a year.
Atlas needs — and deserves — a rest.